Cricket: Mushtaq's departure deepens gloom

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The Independent Online
FLAMING June? Flaming heck. As if things are not bad enough already for Somerset, rooted at the foot of the table with four defeats in their first four matches, yesterday's washout against Hampshire here added to the glum news that Mushtaq Ahmed will only be available for three further Championship matches.

Pakistan have extended their tour of Sri Lanka later this summer with a series of one-day games, so the 23-year-old leg- spinner will not be available for his county after 8 July. Even that is an improvement on the situation, the Pakistan board having sought the player's release a week earlier for pre- tour training.

Somerset had expected to lose Mushtaq, but now the tour does not finish until 17 September and the county are furious. 'We were told he would be leaving us in the last week of July, would be away throughout August and back with us for September's Championship matches,' Peter Anderson, Somerset's chief executive, said. 'Had we known that from the start we probably would not have employed him.'

Mushtaq is in the second season of a three-year contract and because of Test and County Cricket Board regulations relating to tours outside this country, Somerset cannot take on another overseas player. 'We're stuck with the problem,' Anderson said, 'and Lancashire are in the same situation with Wasim Akram.' Somerset had protested to the Pakistan Board, he added. 'We informed them that unless they gave us assurances that it won't happen in future, we will not be retaining Mushtaq next year.'

Lancashire are trying to have the regulations amended. 'We shall be supporting them,' Anderson said.

Somerset's problems are also compounded by injuries, the main one being the shoulder damage affecting Andrew Cad dick, who has missed the last three Championship games. The England bowler underwent exploratory surgery in London yesterday and said: 'I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it is nothing more serious than a tendon problem.'